Hometown: Bridgewater, NJ
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm part of Ma-Yi Writers Lab and we're all frantically working on our LabFest plays. My reading date is Oct 15... so yeah. That's soon. I'm also working on an E.S.T./Sloan play, which is set in Pakistan. It looks at the life of physicist Abdus Salam through the eyes of a 16 year old Pakistani-American boy who's been sent back to the homeland.
Q: You were just named South Asian Diaspora Playwright-In-Residence at the Lark. Can you tell me about that? What does that entail?
A: Yes! I'm so excited to be in residence at the Lark. I've been a big fan of the Indo-American Arts Council and the Lark for many many years now, who have joined forces to offer this residency. I suppose it involves being South Asian Diasporrific (thanks Jon Kern for dubbing that). The greatest part about it is that I get to be involved in Lark's programs, and broaden my sense of community, and work on new plays. It's a support system that I've been really lacking, and have been looking for, and I have a year to make the most of it!
Q: What do you do at New Georges?
A: I'm a TCG Future Leaders fellow with New Georges, so I suppose that means I should be bossing people around. But actually, my official title is Creative Outreach Associate. Under those auspices, I've been really doing a lot of thinking about how to reach more audiences through the work and even through the surround art that comes out of it. I've been creating little videos for their upcoming productions, that I like to think have the same feel and energy as the play itself. I'd love to see theater move more into the new age, and embrace technology more. Like if I am seeing a show at the Ohio, in the lobby I'd get to see video teasers for other shows around town. I think a lot of audience members think of theater as a one-off event, but by creating buzz through the web and video we can really bring it to the next level. I'm almost done with the fellowship, so after that, I'm on my own!
Q: You wrote and directed a short film. What was that experience like? Do you like directing your own work?
A: Yes, my first short film that I ever wrote and directed was sorta a crazy experience. I basically shot the whole thing overnight at an Indian restaurant -- Brick Lane Curry House, which I highly recommend (on sixth street) -- that we secured the day before. So after the last customer left at midnight, we began our shoot... By eight AM we were all bleary eyed, but Debargo Sanyal, Poorna Jagannathan and Tyler Pierce (our actors) had to go to a theater rehearsal at 9 AM. It was also the coldest night of the year, and we were shooting outside once the sun came out. But there definitely is something addictive about film shoots, and I recently wrote and directed my first feature film (www.hidingdivya.com), which I luckily had more than one night to shoot! I would never ever think to direct my own plays, but for some reason I love directing my own screenplays. I think putting on the director cap gives you a lot of freedom from the text -- you can throw things out and improve upon things. And editing is the ultimate form of re-writing, but a whole lot more fun, because you're not all alone in your room trying to figure out how to make the scene pop. You've got an editor next to you, and the actors (on the screen) that you can manipulate without having them get angry with you. I'm thinking of branching out and directing other folks' scripts too, but haven't figured out what that means and entails yet.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theater that takes risks and that reflects the world we live in today.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: It's interesting, I tried to think through all the things I was told, and see which one worked for me... things like, "produce your own work", "stay out of debt", "don't go to grad school", "go to grad school", "be nice", etc. And I think in the end, the only thing I really followed was my own instincts. So that's what I'm going with. Trust your gut. And don't waste time looking back.
Here is one of Rehana's films for New Georges. (Schreck's play)